They Blinded Me With the Rhetoric of ‘Science!’

New EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent a memo to EPA employees last week stating her and the Administration’s principles on environmental regulation. Excerpt:

Science must be the backbone for EPA programs. The public health and environmental laws that Congress has enacted depend on rigorous adherence to the best available science. The President believes that when EPA addresses scientific issues, it should rely on the expert judgment of the Agency’s career scientists and independent advisors. When scientific judgments are suppressed, misrepresented or distorted by political agendas, Americans can lose faith in their government to provide strong public health and environmental protection.

The tiresomely tendentious Tom Toles offers us this take on science and politics Sunday.

The “science has been politicized” argument has been a popular theme of activist groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The argument is a way of shouting down critics over policy disagreements, claiming the higher ground of “science” even when scientific disputes continue.

But you know, it’s the voters who ultimately determine public policy.

As Jonathan Adler recently wrote:

“Restoring Science”? [Jonathan Adler]

President Obama’s remark that his administration would “restore science to its rightful place” was both a shot at the Bush Administration, as well as a misleading statement. First, this comment wrongly suggested that science can somehow resolve difficult policy questions.  Insofar as policy differences are based upon normative concerns, science may inform our decisions, but it cannot resolve policy disputes.  Nor, contrary to Obama’s explict suggestion, will it magically address health care costs (as Scott Gotlieb explained in the WSJ today).  President Obama’s comment also reinforced the meme that Republicans politicize science, while Democrats respect science.  Yet, as I explained here, Obama’s selection for his top science advisor, John Holdren, is hardly someone to end politicization of science.


Leave a Reply